As the days shorten, Russia is dressing up in its best winter clothes, to cope with the falling snowflakes and seriously falling temperatures. Whether for its landscapes, winter sports or to stroll through its most beautiful cities and warm up with a hot drink, the winter period has a special taste in Russia and offers opportunities for all tastes. Faced with the vastness of the country, here are the must-sees, places to see and activities to do, all wrapped up in a warm coat.
A visit to St. Petersburg
The cultural capital of Russia has one of the most picturesque atmospheres in winter. Contrary to the summer, when the streets are flooded with passers-by, you walk along almost deserted roads, with a hushed and icy serenity. You walk along the snow-covered canals before reaching the streets full of restaurants and bars. It is advisable to visit Rubinsteina and Dumskaya streets. Then, after a meal, you can visit the most beautiful monuments such as the Cathedral of St. Saviour on the Bloodstream in St. Petersburg or enter the Hermitage Museum, one of the largest antique museums in the world. Lovers of architecture, 500 palaces await you. They are home to a world of rococo flamboyance, diamond chandeliers and reveal all the beauties of classical art
Skating on Lake Baikal
Those who are prepared for temperatures around -30°C can feel a strong sense of freedom on their way to Lake Baikal. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world and in winter it reflects the colours of the sky at different times of the day. There is a wide range of activities, such as skating, tobogganing or why not hoverboarding. The vastness of the place gives the feeling of being alone in the world. But you can also reach the surrounding infrastructures to practice winter sports such as skiing, or to go fishing in complete peace and quiet. The lake offers the possibility to camp right on the shore, and it is also possible to reach a wooden hut on the river bank to wake up to an incredible natural spectacle.
Kiji Island Expedition
The island with the magnificent wooden cathedral that catches the eye is the famous island of Kiji which takes place in Lake Onego. There are no roads to get there and in the middle of winter, all you have to do is dress in a warm fleece suit, put on a helmet and step on your snowmobile to ride across the frozen plain. The expedition continues until the domes of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration are revealed on the horizon. There are only two ways to get a chance to visit the famous wooden ensemble in the heart of the winter season: snowmobile or hovercraft. An invigorating expedition that is sure to appeal to fans of architecture and sacred places.
The discovery of Vladivostok
The city of Vladivostok is known as the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world. It's also a charming city where you have to stop, if only to feel like you're at the end of the world. We start by joining the Eagle's Nest to enjoy a nice view of the city, then we stroll through the city centre and reach the paved street of Fokina Oulitsa, to stop for lunch in a restaurant. It is then the time to go and see its most beautiful Orthodox churches, a must in Russia. To let off steam, Sup-Surfing is an activity that is becoming more and more popular in Vladivostok. Why not then indulge in a good sports session in Sobol Bay, before finally going to see the Tokarevski lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the Far East.
Getaway in Karelia
Located north of St. Petersburg, the Republic of Karelia is covered with picturesque forests and there are also more than 60 lakes frozen in winter, which are ideal for dog sledding and snowmobiling. In this sumptuous region, reminiscent of some of Tolstoy's novels, one discovers a wooden architecture of breathtaking beauty, including a large number of log cabins built of logs and in which it is nice to warm up in the evening around the fire. Karelia is a region of choice for enjoying all that winter has to offer: plenty of snow, walks in the heart of nature and comforting moments in wooden structures that are just waiting to welcome visitors.
Hiking in the Natural Park of the Lena's Columns
The Natural Park of the Columns of the Lena is famous for its impressive rock column. This natural beauty has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2012. There is a special charm in hiking in this splendid place in winter to discover the spectacular rocky columns almost 100 metres high that run along the banks of the river Lena. For your information, the columns are based on the annual temperature range of almost 100°C, from winters with temperatures as low as -60°C to summers with temperatures as high as 40°C
Sochi, a winter sports paradise
The city of Sochi, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014, is a prime location for winter sports enthusiasts. It offers an ideal setting in Russia for those who wish to escape from extreme conditions. The ski and snowboard slopes are of excellent quality and are only a short distance from the Black Sea coast. In addition to enjoying the many sports activities on offer, you should not miss the Botanical Garden, the excursion to the Olympic area and the terraces of the restaurants, as the average daytime temperature in winter is 6-8 °C.
Yakutia, land of adventure
Yakutia is the least populated territory in Russia and is home to 15% of the earth's wilderness! The mountain ranges and tundra await adventurous visitors who are not afraid to face extreme conditions, since 40% of the territory lies within the Arctic Circle and temperatures can reach -50°C in winter. But for the thrill of riding a sled dog or a snowmobile, to be confronted with the immensity of the landscapes and to plunge into the heart of a traditional way of life where the indigenous Iakuts use reindeer sled paths, this expedition is definitely worth it
Expedition to one of the cities of the Golden Ring
The Golden Ring is a group of eight cities located a short train ride northeast of Moscow. During a stay in the Russian capital, you should go and see some of these authentic cities, which offer an immersion in a more rural Russia, that of churches, monasteries and kremlins. Winter and snow create a special atmosphere during these expeditions, which take visitors to Rostov Veliki, the oldest city in Russia, two of whose cathedrals are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or to Suzdal, the best-preserved city on the outskirts of Moscow, which is probably the most pre-Soviet
Strolling in the snowy parks of Moscow
Moscow is particularly charming in winter. You can skate on the largest ice rink in Europe in VDNKh, you can also take the opportunity to go to the Red Square to observe an exceptional architectural heritage. Then there are the many snowy parks in the city. Well wrapped up in warm clothes, we head for Zariadié Park, whose platform suspended in the air offers an incredible view of the KremlinMoskva River. In Gorky Park, you stroll through the alleys, pass by the skating rink or the Garage Museum of Modern Art, and then you end up going to one of the stalls to buy a coffee and warm up, in the middle of the pristine landscape.